"It's okay to not be okay".

Many of us have come across this seemingly contradictory statement before. At first glance or upon hearing it for the first time, the essence of it may not be the most apparent. But what does it really mean?

"It's okay to not be okay" conveys the idea that it is acceptable and normal to experience difficulties, struggles, or negative emotions in life. It emphasizes that it is perfectly fine to feel sad, anxious, or overwhelmed at times, and that these big feelings should be acknowledged and accepted rather than suppressed or ignored.

In similar vein, the book "Big Feelings: How to Be Okay When Things Are Not Okay" by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy helps us understand that difficult emotions are not abnormal, and that we can emerge from them with a deeper sense of meaning. We can't stop emotions from bubbling up, but we can learn how to make peace with them. This book takes readers through how to end the cycle of intrusive thoughts brought on by regret, and instead use this feeling as a compass for making decisions, how to identify what's behind your anger and communicate it productively, and helps readers understand why we might be suffering from perfectionism even if we feel far from perfect.

Read on to find out more about these lessons and how to confront big feelings in a productive and healthy manner.

What is the book "Big Feelings" about?

"Big Feelings: How to Be Okay When Things Are Not Okay" is a book that focuses on helping individuals navigate and cope with their emotions during challenging times. Authored by experts in psychology and mental health, the book provides guidance and strategies for managing overwhelming emotions, building resilience, and finding inner strength when faced with adversity.

The book delves into various aspects of emotional well-being, offering practical tools to understand and process big feelings such as anxiety, sadness, anger, and uncertainty. It explores the impact of external factors, such as life changes or traumatic events, on our emotional state and provides techniques for self-care, self-compassion, and building healthy coping mechanisms.

"Big Feelings" aims to empower readers to develop a sense of emotional balance and to cultivate resilience in the face of life's challenges. It offers insights, exercises, and real-life examples to help individuals navigate their emotions, fostering a greater sense of well-being and providing guidance on how to find peace and acceptance even when circumstances are difficult.

What are the 7 Big Feelings?

"Big Feelings" provides insights and practical tools to help individuals navigate and cope with challenging emotions in a healthy and empowering way. Here are the 7 "big" feelings discussed:

1. Uncertainty

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The authors tackle the pervasive feeling of uncertainty, which often surfaces during times of change or unpredictability. They emphasize the importance of acknowledging and accepting uncertainty as an inevitable part of life, instead of trying to eliminate it. Strategies to manage this emotion include cultivating resilience, mindfulness, and adaptability. They also stress the significance of self-care, self-compassion, and seeking support from others during uncertain times.

2. Comparison

The book delves into the emotional toll of comparisons, amplified by social media and societal pressures. This tendency can lead to negative self-perception and anxiety. The authors suggest fostering self-compassion and focusing on individual strengths and progress rather than measuring oneself against others. They propose techniques such as practicing gratitude, mindfulness, and shifting from competition to collaboration, while emphasizing the importance of supportive relationships and authentic connections.

3. Anger

Addressing anger, the authors explore its causes, such as unmet needs, frustrations, or perceived injustices, and provide strategies for healthy expression and management. Techniques include assertive communication, setting boundaries, and emotional regulation. They highlight the role of self-awareness in understanding anger triggers and the benefits of forgiveness for emotional healing. Self-care and self-compassion also play a crucial role in effectively managing and channeling anger.

4. Burnout

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The book examines burnout, highlighting its causes and signs, such as chronic stress and overwhelming responsibilities. Practical strategies to cope with and prevent burnout include self-care practices, boundary-setting, and improving work-life balance. The authors underscore the importance of seeking support, reevaluating priorities, and aligning personal values and goals to create a sustainable and fulfilling lifestyle. Self-compassion is also essential in addressing burnout without self-judgment.

5. Perfectionism

Perfectionism is discussed as a source of stress, anxiety, and self-criticism. The authors advocate for self-compassion and setting realistic expectations. They explore the link between perfectionism and fear of failure, suggesting techniques to reframe failure as a learning opportunity and fostering a resilient attitude. The importance of separating self-worth from external achievements is emphasized, along with self-care to manage self-critical thoughts and promote relaxation.

6. Despair

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The authors provide insights into managing despair, often experienced during significant loss or prolonged struggles. They discuss fostering resilience and hope, processing grief, and engaging in self-care activities that bring comfort. Support from loved ones and mental health professionals is crucial. The book also emphasizes finding meaning and purpose, even in despair, by reframing perspectives, seeking inspiration, and practicing self-compassion.

7. Regret

Regret is explored with a focus on self-compassion and self-forgiveness for past decisions or missed opportunities. The authors highlight the importance of reframing regret as a chance for growth and learning, and accepting the past while focusing on creating a fulfilling future. Practicing gratitude and engaging in self-reflection to align choices with personal values are strategies to manage regret and minimize future regrets.

Each of these emotional states is addressed with practical tools and insights to help individuals navigate through them, promoting emotional well-being and personal growth.

How to Manage Your Big Feelings

1. Acknowledge Your Emotions

Learning to recognize and name your emotions is an essential first step in managing them effectively. By putting specific language to what you feel—rather than resorting to vague descriptors like "bad" or "upset"—you begin to demystify and understand your emotional state. This act can often make the emotion feel more manageable and less overwhelming. When you acknowledge your emotions, you validate your own experience and pave the way for healthier emotional processing.

Use Journey's mood indicator to record your sentiment score in a journal entry.
Use Journey's mood indicator to record your sentiment score in a journal entry.

Using Journey is a fantastic way to journal and record your emotions. With its intuitive interface, you can easily log each emotion as it arises, giving it specific meaning rather than vague terms like "bad" or "upset." This practice not only helps demystify what you're feeling but also makes those emotions feel more manageable and less overwhelming. By journaling your emotions in Journey, you validate your own experiences and create a healthier path for emotional processing.

2. Allow Yourself to Feel

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Allowing yourself to experience emotions without judgment is crucial for emotional well-being. Suppressing your feelings can inadvertently make them more intense. By validating your own emotions, rather than dismissing them or trying to 'fix' them immediately, you give yourself permission to be human. This acceptance fosters a healthier emotional landscape, where feelings are processed in their due time.

3. Practice Self-Compassion

Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a close friend. Self-compassion acknowledges that it is okay to struggle and that you are not alone in feeling the way you do. Embracing self-compassion can lighten your emotional load, making it easier to navigate difficult times and bounce back from challenges.

4. Set Boundaries

Boundary as Illusion
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Setting boundaries is essential for preserving your emotional and mental energy, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed. Learning to say no when necessary helps you avoid overcommitting and stretches your capacity to manage what you have already taken on. Protect your well-being by clearly defining what you can and cannot handle.

5. Seek Support

Sharing your feelings with trusted friends, family members, or a therapist can be incredibly liberating and validating. Opening up about your emotions does not signify weakness; it is a courageous act of seeking the help and understanding you need. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for support when you feel it is necessary.

6. Engage in Mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or grounding exercises can help you stay in the present moment. Focusing on your senses and being fully present allows you to step away from the clutter of your thoughts and reconnect with the here and now. Mindfulness can be a powerful tool for managing stress and improving emotional well-being.

7. Move Your Body

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Physical activity, whether it’s walking, yoga, or any form of exercise, can help you process emotions and release built-up tension. Moving your body in a way that feels natural and sustainable for you can have lasting benefits on both your emotional and physical well-being.

8. Reframe Negative Thoughts

Challenging and reframing negative or unhelpful thoughts can significantly impact your emotional state. By identifying and modifying these thought patterns using cognitive behavioral techniques, you gain more control over your internal dialogue, making it easier to maintain a positive outlook.

9. Focus on Small Wins

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Breaking down overwhelming tasks into smaller, manageable parts can make them less daunting. Celebrate each small success to build momentum, cultivate a sense of achievement, and boost positivity. These small wins can collectively lead to a significant improvement in your overall emotional well-being.

10. Develop a Routine

Establishing daily routines provides structure and predictability, which can significantly reduce anxiety and offer a sense of control over your day. Consistent patterns help create a foundation upon which you can build a stable and emotionally healthy life.

Practice Atomic Habit Stacking by using a journal template found in Journey.
Practice Atomic Habit Stacking by using a journal template found in Journey.

You can practice Atomic Habit Stacking in Journey to create daily routines using this journal template. Begin with a key activity and add related habits to form a consistent daily pattern—such as a morning meditation, followed by a walk, and then a healthy breakfast. By logging these habits in Journey, you can track your progress and maintain a predictable, anxiety-reducing routine, fostering a sense of control and emotional well-being.

"Big Feelings" serves as a valuable resource for managing the most challenging emotions we encounter, spanning from anger to despair. By openly acknowledging and confronting these emotions, the book helps readers realize that it becomes feasible to effectively navigate and process them.

By embracing and navigating difficult emotions, fostering resilience, and finding inner strength even in the midst of challenging circumstances, you can find growth and seek learning.